Chinese bike-sharing start-up Ofo is on the verge of bankruptcy, after months of bleeding cash in a highly competitive sector. Four-year-old Ofo had raised more than $2.2bn since it was founded, and exemplified the Chinese start-up model of growing quickly by raising money and burning through cash.
“I’ve thought countless times . . . of even dissolving the company and applying for bankruptcy,” Dai Wei wrote in a letter to employees on Wednesday. “For the whole of this year we’ve borne immense cash flow pressure. Returning deposits to users, paying debts to suppliers, in order to keep the company running we have to turn every renminbi into three.”
Dockless bike-sharing companies, including Ofo and its main rival Mobike, have rolled out more than 20m bikes in the past two years in China and abroad, but have been forced to retreat rapidly. This summer, Ofo withdrew from most locations in the UK, including Sheffield and Norwich, sacked most of its staff and largely abandoned its aim of making British cities healthier, cleaner and less congested.
“The car crash that is Chinese bike-sharing start-up ofo has been anything but slow-motion. The company has gone from a standing start to one of the world’s fastest-growing start-ups and back again in a hyper-accelerated three years,” writes Tim Bradshaw, in his opinion piece.
Flag as Important
EU hack: The EU has launched an investigation into a huge hack of its diplomatic cables, allegedly by a Chinese group, that has revived fears about vulnerabilities in the 28-country bloc’s data systems.
Kids train teachers to code: An afternoon spent at Code Club, an after-school coding course for children in the UK, led me to discover that it's an unexpectedly great way to train teachers expected to teach computer science, with no background in the subject. Here's my column, in the FT magazine this weekend.
Final nail in Facebook coffin? A New York Times investigation found that Facebook had exposed a trove of user information — including people's private messages and their friends' newsfeeds, with companies such as Microsoft, Spotify and Netflix. Those companies said they had no idea they had been given this access and had never used it, but Facebook could be in serious legal trouble.
Tech tools you can use — Platypus Blue Ocean
“After innumerable prototypes, the first fully operational Platypus Blue Ocean will be delivered in 2019. The vessel enables passengers to sit 2m below the surface for a snorkelling-cum-diving experience that requires a simple air mask rather than an oxygen tank,” writes Camilla Apcar.
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